Hickory, NC – In one of the grisliest murders the local Catawba County Sheriff’s Department can recall, a teen roommate uses the gay panic defense to justify his alleged ax-and-shotgun murder of an older gay man. Michael Anderson, 19, of nearby King’s Mountain, is accused of murdering 38-year-old Stephen Starr at about 4:45 a.m. on Monday in the Hickory house they shared. The Hickory Daily Record reports that Anderson, claiming he “turned straight” during alleged sexual advances by Starr, shot him with a shotgun and pistol, carved words into his body and wrote some others with a pen, before lodging an ax in the victim’s stomach. “He shot his roommate and took an ax to him,” Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid told the Daily Record. “It’s one of the nastiest crime scenes I’ve been to.” The words carved and written on Starr’s mutilated body were apparently so offensive that officials are not releasing what they were until the trial. Anderson announced the murder on his Facebook page between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., asking God to forgive him, and claiming that no one would be able to take him alive. In a bizarre twist The Box Turtle Bulletin says is reminiscent of the infamous “Twinkie Defense” used to deflect blame for the murder of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk by a straight rival on the board, Anderson claims that he took too many doses of Mucinex DM, an over-the-counter congestion medication. In a 911 recording released to the Daily Record on Tuesday, Anderson says that the pills “drove me mad”: “I Od’d on Mucinex DM. Dextromethorphan makes me feel a little weird and I took too many.” Anderson told the telecommunicator that he shot his roommate three times with a shotgun and pistol, then mutilated the corpse with an ax so brutally that Starr would not be able to be identified: “You’re not going to know who it is,” Anderson says on the recording. When asked why he killed his roommate, Anderson then says that it was because Starr was gay, and he was heterosexual. “I met [Starr] and went to his house and he took me in and I turned straight again. And he wanted to touch me and stuff and I wouldn’t let him, and he kept trying. And I waited until he went to sleep and then I shot him three times. And I mutilated him very badly and I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Oh God, please help me.” Starr had likened his relationship to Anderson as a parental one, according to his Facebook page. On February 6, Starr posted that he had a “new son,” a person he was trying to make a better human being. So, Anderson’s account of being picked up at a gay bar and molested seems not to square with Starr’s understanding of the relationship, neither does Anderson’s suggestion that the encounter with his older gay roommate was recent and brief. The two men apparently lived together for several days. As the case continues to sort itself out, it is well to remember that homophobia is a crooked phenomenon that erupts into violence in a variety of seemingly-irrational ways. It is also important to remember that Starr is unable to answer charges of sexual advances. News reports are carrying only allegations from the self-interested point of view of the alleged killer. The Unfinished Lives Team sees enough in this story to indicate that a possible anti-gay hate crime was committed by a desperate young man who is ready to blame over-the-counter cold medications and the victim for his actions, but not himself.
Houston, Texas – Joel Osteen met his match on ABC Television’s The View as he tried to peddle his brand of “soft-homophobia” to the nation. The Advocate reports that Joy Behar took Osteen to task for denigrating lesbians and gay men as “not God’s best,” a statement he made on the program last year. Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, a megachurch boasting an average weekly attendance of 43,500 and a national television outreach, responded to Whoopi Goldberg that like God, he loved “everybody,” but while some of his friends were gay (“the nicest people in the world”), he couldn’t agree that God did the right thing creating people with a homosexual orientation (a remark he struggled to take back later in the broadcast). Osteen claimed a single biblical message on homosexuality, and when pressed by Joy Behar, classed gays and lesbians with “drunkards” and “people on drugs.” When Osteen was asked about his position on whether fellow megachurch pastor Jim Swilley, founder of the Conyers, Georgia Church in the Now, should remain as leader of the church, Osteen retreated into his anti-gay theology. Swilley, married twice to women and the father of four children, came out as a gay man recently in response to the rash of LGBTQ teen suicides, confessing that he could no longer remain in the closet while so many gay youth were dying. The death by bullycide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman, particularly affected Swilley, who says he knew he was gay since youth, but tried to live as a heterosexual person. As reported in thespreadit.com, Swilley said of his sexual orientation, “At a certain point, you are who you are.” Osteen said that scripture would prohibit a gay man from pastoring a church (though the Bible never mentions the subject of pastoral leadership and homosexuality). Still, Osteen labored to convince the women on The View that his church was welcoming to gays. Asked again about his inflammatory contention that homosexuality “is not God’s best,” he said to co-host Barbara Walters, “I should finish that sentence. I should make it clear. I don’t think it’s God’s best for your life. I don’t think it’s not God’s best making us.” Joy Behar pointed out that Osteen, who above all wanted to come across on national television as a nice person, was left with “a conundrum”: either God created homosexual people good (Genesis says that God pronounces all creation “good”), or God made a mistake by creating people as “less than God’s best.” Osteen hesitated to comment about the conundrum his soft brand of heterosexism and homophobia poses for church leaders who truly want gays and lesbians to attend their churches and contribute their money, but who disapprove of their existence as God created them to be. While less overt than many Christianist anti-gay positions, Osteen’s form of bias is perhaps the most insidious in American life today. While maintaining a smooth, pleasing public persona, such soft anti-gay prejudice feeds the internalized homophobia of LGBTQ people who yearn for church blessings, and grants a green light to homophobic exclusion from circles of “normalcy” and from church leadership positions (which are the true test of any church’s feelings toward LGBTQ people). Osteen further claims a simplistic “Bible-based” set of anti-gay teachings that plays well to the mob, which serious biblical scholars have debunked for decades. Osteen claimed in an exit interview that he “loved” being on The View, that he had “a great time.” The success of his appearance will be determined, to paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln a bit, by whether a charlatan can, indeed, “fool all of the people all of the time.”